Building a Greener Future

Steve Mead, Professor and Associate Chair of Construction Management at Northern Arizona University, is a leader on many fronts. He oversees the university's nationally-recognized construction management program and is at the head of the green building movement both on campus and in the community. Mead pairs his expertise from more than 25 years in construction with his interest in emerging technology to build greener, more energy and cost-efficient facilities.

"We started a green team and kicked around some ideas on how we could build green buildings at the university," he says. "We decided we needed to build an iconic green building that would demonstrate what our environmental ethic is: that building became the Applied Research and Development building, which won the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects International Award in 2009."

Sustainable education

Mead started educational programs for both the university and the surrounding communities to focus on similar types of energy-efficient buildings. Key examples include the Coconino County Sustainable Building Program and Northern Arizona University’s Climate Action Plan, which Mead says has the potential to make a huge difference.

Mead also advocates sustainability through course offerings. Many construction management courses also offer service learning projects, classroom demonstrations, and internships, which Mead says contribute to the program's growing demand.

"We do a lot of different things in our program with experiential learning, including service learning projects," Mead says. "We build ramps for disabled people. We have been to Mexico with an archeology team to build a field station for them. We have done some work for the Engineers Without Borders team. People come to us all the time for assistance with projects around campus and the community. It's just something our students do a lot of."

A growing field

Since Mead came to the university in the late ‘90s, the program has grown from 75 to 250 students from across the country. Mead credits the students for the programs’ success.

"To be a construction manager, you have to be extremely hard working," he says. "It is a very interesting field in that you are part business manager and part engineer, but primarily you are a communicator. It takes a diverse set of technical and communication skills. The students we get tend to be kids who learn things fast and are good multi-taskers, so they're good in this program."

Mead aims to continue his mission to help students grow into construction leaders. "That is just because there is so much demand," says Mead. "We have kids that graduated 10 years ago and they are now the vice presidents of pretty big organizations," he says. "There are lots of wonderful opportunities right now in this field for our students."